Sunday, 3 May 2015

Sir Rowland Hill

The current buzz in the stamp collecting world over the 175th anniversary of the Penny Black got me to thinking: "Is there any way I can link this amazing milestone with my Slania collecting blog?"

The answer is yes!

To link The Master with this event we must turn our attention to Great Britain's 1995 Pioneers of Communications issue.  This issue comprised four stamps all of which were engraved by Czeslaw Slania. but it is to the first two stamps of this set that I will focus in this blog. These two stamps commemorate Sir Rowland Hill,  the man behind Penny Postage,  as it were.

Sir Rowland Hill (1795-1879) was a rather amazing man. He was an accomplished teacher, an administrator, and an inventor. One of his inventions was a rotary printing-press in the 1830's.  It was his writing of "Postal Reform: Its Importance and Practibility." in 1837 that had far-reaching effects.

At the time Sir Hill wrote this pamphlet postage fees were based on weight and the distance the letter had to travel.  Because of this,  postage was calculated on a letter by letter basis, and it wasn't the person sending the letter who paid, but the addressee.  Naturally receivers often refused to pay. I can understand this. For instance, why would one wish to pay for news one may not wish to hear?

Sir Hill's proposal became revolutionary.  He suggested the use of pre-printed envelopes,  and affixed to these postage stamps with a fixed rate of 1d per half-ounce to be paid by the sender.

The following stamp - engraved by Slania - commemorates this groundbreaking reform.


The second Rowland Hill stamp in this set commemorates his influence in the creation of the first adhesive postage stamp - the Penny Black. So much has been written on this famous stamp that I need not go into too much detail here.  Just a brief overview should suffice.

We will start with a man by the name of William Wyon.  Mr Wyon was responsible for the design of a medal used to commemorate the visit of Queen Victoria to the City of London in1837.  This medal Iincorporated the cameo-like portrait of the queen.

Another fellow by the name of Henry corbould used this medal to produce drawings of Queen Victoria's portrait. These drawings were produced to aid the engraver Charles Heath. Charles Heath and his son Frederick were given the task of engraving the die for what became the famous Penny Black. Although from what I have read it is thought that Heath's son Frederick did most of the engraving.

Printing of the Penny Black commenced on 11th April 1840 at Perkins, Bacon and Co. The Penny Black went on sale on 1st May 1840,  but they weren't valid for postage until the 6th. Although a cover exists with a postal date of 1st May, and there were some posted on the 2nd May.

Czeslaw Slania's commemorative stamp incorporates a portrait of Sir Rowland Hill in the foreground with the famous Penny Black in the background.


Since Slania engraved his own rendition of a Machin stamp - and a fine stamp it is if I may say so - I wonder what an engraving of the Penny Black by Slania would look like? Alas we will never know, but the idea is intriguing - it is to me, at least! In any case we do have the original Penny Black to marvel at. The following example I chose as it has my initials on it...

"Penny black" by General Post Office of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 

Until next time...

Stay Slania Crazy!

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